Catholic New World: Newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago

The Family Room by Michelle Martin

Magical Thinking

By the time you read this, I will likely be at least halfway through the seventh and last Harry Potter book.

I ordered “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” months ago, the better to have it delivered to my door on July 21. I’ve been waiting for ever since finishing “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” two summers ago. I got an early HP fix by seeing “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (the movie version of the fifth book) the day it came out.

I wasn’t always like this. I didn’t even buy the first Harry Potter book in hardback. I never picked it up until I did a story for the Catholic New World on the Harry Potter phenomenon, looking at whether it should concern faithful Catholics.

It certainly does concern some of them—including, from my very unscientific survey, many who have experience with the occult and have turned away from it.

But being a non-believer in magic myself, the spell-casting and charms and flying brooms in the first novel struck me more in the vein of harmless fun, in the realm of fairy-tale magic. No matter how many children might like to pretend to be Harry Potter, I have yet to see one fly by on a broomstick.

But until now, I haven’t been able to share J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world with Caroline. When the series started, she was still a baby— obviously much too young. But as she grew older and began reading on her own, she turned down my offers to read the Harry Potter books to her or have her read them herself. Just not interested, she said.

Until now. With a summer reading assignment (reading two or three books off a list three pages long), she hemmed and hawed about making a choice—all the while devouring American Girl books, other historical fiction (she’s partial to the “Dear America” series of fictional kids’ journals from pivotal events in U.S. history) as well as Babysitter’s Club and other summer fluff.

But they weren’t on the list. Most of the things she wanted to read that were on the list she had already read. We were already reading the Narnia Chronicles together—she didn’t want to skip ahead of me and read them on her own.

So one night when she was going to be stuck at an adult gathering and looking for a book to escape into, I handed her “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” and reminded her that it was on the list.

She took it, and once she started, she didn’t stop. After the first evening, she admitted she liked it.

I told her how happy I was that she was enjoying it, and asked if maybe the reason she hadn’t wanted to read it was because I wanted her to so much.

“Probably,” she shrugged, and then went back to reading.

I’m not worried that she’ll one day attempt to turn her brother into a pincushion. I hope she picks up the bits about the redeeming power of love, about being loyal to and standing up for friends, about reaching out to those who are different. I hope she gets a major theme of each of the books so far: that who you are is determined not by the gifts you are born with, but by what you choose to do with them.

Most of all, I hope she has a lot of fun.

Martin is assistant editor of the Catholic New World. Contact her at [email protected].